FILE – This June 8, 2011, file pho to shows Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White in Indianapolis. White faces voter fraud charges Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in a case that could decide if he remains as the state’s top election official. Prosecutors claim White fraudulently used his ex-wife’s address on his voter registration form in the May 2010 primary when he actually had a condo elsewhere with his fiancee. They also allege that he collected his Fishers Town Council salary after moving out of that district. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana’s top elections official signed documents showing he was living at an address different than one he listed on voting records, witnesses testified Tuesday as prosecutors began building their case in a trial that could cost Secretary of State Charlie White his job and his freedom.
White faces charges of fraud, perjury and theft. A conviction on even one of the seven felony counts would force his removal from the politically powerful office.
As the trial began, defense attorney Carl Brizzi tried to sow doubt in jurors’ minds that White is guilty of any of the charges.
Special prosecutor Dan Sigler Sr. brought in a cart with 11 boxes of evidence, including key cellphone records that he said in his opening argument would show White wasn’t living in the address on his voting records.
Prosecutors claim White used his ex-wife’s address on his voter registration form in the May 2010 Republican primary when he actually had a condo elsewhere with his fiancée. They also allege he collected his $1,000-per-month Fishers Town Council salary after moving out of that district.
“This case is about deceit and cheating,” Sigler told jurors at the Hamilton County Courthouse in the Noblesville, about 20 miles north of Indianapolis. “Somebody tried to get away with something. … Somebody got caught.”
But Brizzi told jurors there was no evidence anyone was harmed or that he was ineligible to vote.
“Their entire case is based on supposition and innuendo,” Brizzi told jurors during his opening argument. “You’re not going to be convinced of anything beyond a reasonable doubt except that they want to get him.”
The state’s first four witnesses were a human resources officer at an Indianapolis law firm White went to work for in 2010 and the sales agent, builder and mortgage closing officer involved in his purchase of the condo that year. They testified that White listed the home located well outside his council district as his primary residence on employment and loan documents or that they saw him arriving or leaving there.
Brizzi tried to poke holes in the state’s case, asking the witnesses if prosecutors had asked them to lie or if they had made up any of their testimony. Sales agent Tammi Kaeser testified she understood White was going to move into the town home in November 2009 — long before White changed his address on voting records — but did not know for a fact whether he did or simply let his future wife, Michelle, live there with her children.
“I’m not sure who moved in on the 13th,” Kaeser said under cross-examination.
Sigler and fellow special prosecutor John Dowd used the witnesses to enter more than 25 documents central to their case that jurors were able to examine in the courtroom and jury room.
White, 42, has said the charges he faces ignore a complicated personal life in which he was trying to raise his 10-year-old son, plan his second marriage in May 2010 and campaign for the statewide office he won that November. He said he stayed at his ex-wife’s house when he wasn’t on the road campaigning and did not live in the condo until after his remarriage.
Prosecutors are expected to conclude their case Thursday.
White has resisted calls to resign from Democrats and Republicans, including Gov. Mitch Daniels.
A Marion County judge already has ruled that White should be ousted, but that decision has been appealed.
The same judge also said White should be replaced by Vop Osili, the Democrat he defeated in the November 2010 election by about 300,000 votes. But state law calls for Daniels to appoint a successor.